Have you ever lied to your children?
No, I do not ask whether you hid parts of the truth. We all do this as parents out of a desire to protect our children. It’s not just required, it’s a must.
But to lie?
This week I came across a post in which someone asked how to answer her little boy about where babies come from. Like how do they go out of mommy’s belly? The answers ranged from nonsense like “from the hub” to the healthy logic “mommy has a special opening for babies.”
This post brought me to an inner discussion.
I started to wonder rather I’m lying to myself when I say I always tell the truth to my children. (The answer is “YES”!)
Then, when I was ready to admit the truth, I began to ask myself where is the thin border between the necessary truth and the dangerous truth lay.
I asked myself when we would choose to lie to our kids.
We often lie to them when the truth embarrasses us, as in this case, “Where do babies come from?” It embarrasses us because our observation of intimate organs is different from that of children. dealing with the subject in front of them embarrasses us.
The truth is, once we start lying about it, the subtexts is (and one day they realize it, faster than we think): “Do not ask us embarrassing truths. Go find that information elsewhere.” And then that’s exactly what they do. And then we wonder why they do not feel comfortable sharing things with us. So when it comes to an embarrassing truth (usually, questions about issues related to sex) I do tell the truth to my kids. So they will not go and try to find it in another place – which can be actually dangerous and cause them damage.
And here’s a little story
One morning, my 7-year-old boy came to me and asked:
“Mommy, you told me that babies are created when the semen of daddy reaches a little egg that is in the mommy’s belly. Right?”
“Right” I replied, knowing already what is about to come…
“So tell me, mommy… How exactly daddy’s semen reaches into mommy’s belly? Does she need to swallow it?”
I had to really hold myself not to burst out laughing at this moment. But I did my best. I smiled at my boy and told him that now it’s time to go to school, and after he comes back, I’ll tell him everything.
The whole day I was preparing myself to “that conversation”. I took over the internet and collected pictures of insects and different animals mating. I also found a video of a home birth. A gentle one, without all the nasty stuff. Just a woman sitting in the tub, and the camera is above her, so you can just see how the baby pops out between her legs in the water. No genitals are seen on the screen.
When my boy was back home, I was ready. I showed him the video and the pictures. Explained everything exactly as it is. As embarrassing as it was for me, I understood that this is not the way he sees it. Also, after all, this is the nature, and there is no logical reason to be embarrassed. And yes, I also told him that mommy and daddy have a pleasant feeling when they do this. The only lie I told him in regard to this issue is that you do these things only with someone you really love. But I think this lie was necessary in order to protect him.
Back to our general lying-to-children issue
We lie to them when we think the truth will harm them. Sometimes it’s true. These are situations where we need to think carefully whether it is better to lie. Sometimes it is better to say a small part of the truth, to minimize it so it will fit their level of understanding, and not to offer the unnecessary information.
And of course, we lie to them when we ourselves are afraid of the truth.
What is amazing to me is that as parents we want to educate them to tell us the truth, but we ourselves lie to them endlessly and sometimes for not very good reasons. We are angry with them when we catch them in lies, but the truth is that we are also lying. And besides this, we were the ones who taught them that sometimes the truth is frightening or painful or embarrassing.
We taught them ourselves that truth is not always preferable.
So yes, I lie to my kids, but only when this lie comes to protect them. Only when it’s necessary.
On the other hand, when I catch my child on a lie, I’m not angry with him. I tell him in a calm voice: sweetie, do not lie to mommy. You can tell me everything and I will not be angry.
And if the truth he tells me does not fit my values – I teach him that it is not worth doing and why it is not worthwhile and how to behave in the future.
So on one hand, if we want children who tell us as much truth as possible, we should start by saying as much truth as possible ourselves.
Yes, kids. Mothers have a special hole for babies to come out.
Yes, my child. We’re divorced and it’s final and we’re never going to come back again. And we know it hurts you, but this is the reality.
Yes, my boy. The school is a bummer. And no, it does not really prepare you for real life.
No, if you eat chocolate instead of lunch, no cop will come.
No. I do not believe in god.
Or anything else, for that matter.
On the other hand, it’s a good time to break free of this cliché – “Truth is always better”. Because the truth is not always better. And also, in some things in life, there is no absolute truth. Truth is a subjective matter and it is not black or white. And I’ll tell you what I mean.
The good lies
As a divorcee, with a little experience in the field, I want to tell you about the lies of our (the divorcees) world.
There are good lies. Those who will protect our children and their soft souls. For example, “Father and I decided together…”. Or “Father and I loved each other very much”, or “Father and I always respected each other”… and so on.
It is so much better for our children not to know how ugly it can really be. Isn’t it?
So let me tell you a little about what happens with countless people. I will tell you about a phenomenon that happens these days. It is not legally recognized and certainly, there is no way to enforce it. It’s called Parental Alienation. And you want to hear something crazy? It almost always starts with one parent who “just” gets dirty on the other parent. In the professional language “the target parent”. The target parent acquires such derogatory epithets that little by little the children can no longer bear him. Sometimes these children no longer want to see the same parent and experience real hatred towards him. Although this parent never did anything bad to them. Although this parent loves them. Just because the other parent washed their little brains with dirt and hatred.
This hatred can last for years. Over years. Over years. With no real justification.
And let’s ignore for a moment the injustice and the heartbreak that is caused to the alienated parent. The damages to these children are huge:
- the majority of these children suffer from low self-esteem to a point of self-hatred
- 70 % of these children suffer from depression in adulthood
- a lack of trust in themselves and in other people
- 50 % of these children experience alienation from their own children when they become parents, which implies that parental alienation is multigenerational
It happens every day and in numbers you will not believe. Children who become orphans of a living parent. No, actually not, it’s even worse. Because orphans don’t hate their dead parent…
So this is the most justified reason to lie to our kids.
Tell them how good is the other parent – even if you don’t think so. This is a good lie.
These children need one day to be able to trust in this world that can be so sad and sometimes ruinous. They should be able to have serious relationships with spouses and children of their own.
No child should hear dirt about his parents. Especially from his second parent.
But if you don’t want to lie, and tell them how great the other parent is, at least shut up.